Science For The Win! Brittany’s Weekly Science Roundup Week One of 2014

by on 11/01/2014
 

2014

Science in review

Week one

science 

2013 was a great year for science. This year is starting off quite nicely as well. We have already made progress through time and space. Let’s take a look shall we?

Leatherback Turtle

Ancient sea creatures had a colour… Grey.

Who would have guessed? The modern day Leatherback Turtle is likely using the same capabilities as their ancient ancestors. These turtles require heat in order to survive and in some cases that is difficult to find in certain regions of the oceans. After discovering fossilized soft tissue containing pigment, scientists and artists have determined that these creatures, including the ichthyosaur and mosasaur, very likely possessed a grey or black pigment. This would allow them to attract the suns rays and warm up in colder climates. The pigment also can warn predators of a fatal poison if ingested as a defense mechanism for the prey. If you would like to learn more about the process or the species talked about in this section, here is a nice little link to the original article. http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/true-color-ancient-sea-creatures-revealed-fossilized-pigment

Ancient skull is more human than apelike.

Does everyone know who ‘Ardi’ is? Probably not. The Ardi skull was discovered/revealed in 2009. It is not as commonly known as ‘Lucy’, the greatly preserved and fossilized link in evolution that became famous decades ago. Ardi is a 4.4 million year old female from the Ardipithecus ramidus. There was much controversy over her place in the human evolution chain. After amazing research led by William Kimbel of Arizona State University, some of the debate is over. With a mashup of features, Ardi was a very confusing subject. She possessed traits from both ape and human, making the research difficult and debatable. The research team recently released evidence showing that the skull of this distant relative had more human traits. The evidence is indicative of partial bipedality.

ardipithecus-ramidus

Now how can we determine how something walked just by looking at a skull? Well in bipedal creatures, the skull and the spine connect at the bottom allowing for us to look forward while walking and standing upright. The connectivity of the spine, nerves and blood vessels are more human like as well. In quadrupeds, the skull is shaped differently to allow for comfortable eating while standing. At this point in the research, Ardi is the oldest known hominin discovered to date.The original article has some great links to further research on the subject and can be found here:

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/%E2%80%98ardi%E2%80%99-skull-shows-link-humans-not-modern-apes

Aurora Borealis visible in the lower latitudes

Due to a solar flare that occurred on the 8th of January 2014, the Aurora Borealis were visible in several of the lower latitudes last night and into the early morning. The state of Colorado in the U.S. (39° 44′ 21″ N in Denver) rarely ever gets to see this amazing natural wonder. That being my home state, I am thoroughly disappointed that I was not there to see this phenomenon. Seeing the Aurorae is at the top of my bucket list.

AuroraBorealis

The solar flare that caused this awesome and rare sight was class X1. This was a pretty big one, but there is nothing to worry about. Scientist are saying that it happens more often than the public notices and even though it causes a burst of radiation, we are all still safe and should enjoy the visual spectacle that Mother Nature creates. The flare itself was a pretty fast one clocking in at 2000 kilometers a second. (Holy cow!) I am extremely jealous if you were one of the many thousands (if not millions) that got to witness this display.

Daenerys of The House Targaryen is a slug

I suppose I should elaborate before anyone gets too worked up. A recently discovered species of sea slug has been named Tritonia khaleesi. Researchers observed the pale plumes of the slug and saw a distinct resemblance between them and the blond braids sported by Daenerys of The House Targaryen, First of Her Name, Queen of The Andals and The First Men, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of chains, and Queen of the Great Grass Sea.

Some might believe that due to this reference the slugs would have extremely long plumes. This is not the case. The plumes themselves are short. The researcher studying these slugs, Felipe de Vasconcelos Silva, has been quoted from his paper stating, “internally, T. khaleesi sp. nov. is distinguished from other tritoniids by jaws with 10–14 rows of denticles on the inner lips, absence of stomach plates and the radular formula 32 × 2–5.1.1.1.2–5 teeth.” It is known.

KhaleesiSlug

Unfortunately, they are charging for access to the actual paper/article he wrote but in case you have a huge passion for sea slugs here is the link to where you can purchase it for $45.00.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstractfromPage=online&aid=9113123&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0025315413001586

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